Barcelona Pioneer DNA Testing to Pre-Empt Injury Problems

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2016

A Barcelona supporter stands drapped in the 'Estelada', pro-independent Catalonia flags, during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona vs UD Las Palmas at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO / CESAR MANSO        (Photo credit should read CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images)
CESAR MANSO/Getty Images

Barcelona are reportedly using DNA testing in an attempt to foresee and subsequently prevent their players picking up injuries. 

That’s according to Alex Miller of the Mail on Sunday, who claimed the Blaugrana have been “pioneering” the testing, which is said to reveal when players are potentially culpable to picking up problems. Miller elaborated on the process:

Barcelona doctor Ricard Pruna is overseeing the ground breaking approach to player welfare at the club.

Pruna has been taking saliva through swabs in the players’ mouths and studying 45 different genes. The DNA in the saliva allows the club to work out muscle problems and to put together fitness programmes tailored for each player. As a result, the club can tell if a player has greater muscle injury prevalence or a normal prevalence.

Miller quoted Matilda Lundblad, a Swedish doctor, who Pruna is reportedly working on a research project with: “It is very sci-fi. Doctor Ricard and I are looking at the genes in saliva and finding ways to individualise fitness programmes.”

Pruna (centre) is said to be the driving force behind the testing.
Pruna (centre) is said to be the driving force behind the testing.AFP/Getty Images

If the testing is indeed in place, it seems to be working at the moment. As noted in the piece, Barcelona currently only have one senior player—midfielder Rafinha—out injured despite having gone through a gruelling campaign; they’ve played 42 games to this point, including two at the Club World Cup in Japan.

Indeed, the Blaugrana have been in mesmerising form and look very much unbeatable at the moment:

Miller suggested that the process has been flirted with in England, with Liverpool and Fulham cited as clubs who have conducted DNA testing on former players. However, it seems the idea is nowhere near as advanced as it's reported to be in Catalonia.

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Barcelona suffered with a spate of injuries earlier in the campaign.
Barcelona suffered with a spate of injuries earlier in the campaign.Alex Caparros/Getty Images

It’s unclear just how long the testing has been in place, but Barcelona haven’t been quite so injury-free all season. Indeed, their star man Lionel Messi missed two months of the campaign, while Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic also suffered with problems earlier in the campaign.

Nevertheless, it’s no surprise to see Barcelona potentially behind some cutting-edge developments given their penchant for breaking new ground, both on and off the field. Sport and science have become increasingly intertwined in the modern era and if we do arrive at a point where injuries can be predicted and prevented, it’d be a marquee moment for the game.